Best practices for a reporter on mission

Many news agencies are mobilizing themselves in order to establish standards of protection and prevention of risks for freelance journalists which is used worldwide.

Over the past few years, violent kidnappings, attacks, abductions and injuries have increased in the field where journalists are covering international events. Reporters are prime targets for warring parties. The practice of independent journalism, similar to the profession of war correspondent, is subjected to growing, multi-directional risks.

The neutrality of reporters and photojournalists is undermined by local governments, warring parties and other groups in modern conflict zones. Impunity is unfortunately normal. Having little control over the principle of neutrality, independent journalists can work to reduce the risks and improve their preparation before departure.

1. Before any live reporting in a conflict zone or hostile environment, the reporter should acquire basic medical competency enabling him to provide first aid to himself or to one of his injured colleagues.

2. The reporter must be supplied with an adequate first aid kit. He must bring with him a reserve of medication with sufficient dosages to carry him through his reporting period. He must be aware of his own current health state, aware of his limits and evaluate his ability to fulfill his task at destination.

3. The reporter must remain up to date on the standards of diligence and safety on site whether physical or psychological. He must be informed of the associated risks in the areas visited and must take out insurance covering everything that has been subject to a travelers’ warning from the Minister of foreign affairs of his country.

4. The journalist going to conflict zone must be provided with bullet-proof protective clothing, specifically bullet-proof vests and helmets. He must wear them even if the situation on the field appears calm.

5. The journalist moving into conflict zone or a hostile environment must ensure that he has received training for working in a hostile environment which is recognized by the press industry.

6. The journalist must perform an in-depth evaluation of the risks involved and measure the journalistic value of a mission in terms of the risks involved. He must combine his knowledge of the field with that of other colleagues having recently made a visit to this area. Contacts on site, ambassadors and security personl are resources to seek out to protect oneself against the dangers of the places which will be visited.

7. The journalist must take the necessary steps to evaluate the translators and drivers who will accompany him on site.

8. The journalist must leave the contact details of his next of kin with the press agencies, and ensure that these nominated people have instructions and precise action plans in case of injury, abduction or death in the field. The reporter must inform his next of kin of the insurance that he has taken out in order that they may make claims in his name if need be.

9. The journalist must communicate regularly with his employer, with his next of kin or with another colleague of his exact location on a daily basis, as well as his program for the following day. This information is crucial in case of kidnapping.

The list of actions is not exhaustive but offers basic preparation which should be included in the process before departure.